Historical setting: 589 C.E. Poitiers
While I stay as a guest at Ligugè I appreciate the hours for prayer and psalms with these few elder brothers. I help some with the work on the statue that Brother August and his young apprentice are doing. And as close as we are, with Ana at the villa, and me here, nearly everyday Ana rides down here and she and I go riding together.
Ana discovered that one of the recent midwives who lived in the servant’s quarters of the villa was literate. She left a journal among with her personal belongings when she was hastily sent away after the last wife of this earl died in childbirth. At this villa the nursery raises this nobleman’s three sons of various ages. There is no mention of daughters, but through all these years the cemetery fills with women, and the bed in the earl’s marriage chamber is rarely shared. Ana is hoping to find the cause of so many mysterious deaths of first time mothers; they happen so consistently it hardly seems normal. Of course it’s true that women often die in birthing children, especially when it’s the woman’s first child. Mothers who birth several children just have some mysterious gift of their good natures that allows for both lives to be safe. But even considering that, these deaths seem unusual. The nuns at the convent want nothing to do with the goings on at the villa.
I asked Ana if the journal is helpful. She said no one else even knows of this. So few servants are literate and it was stuck away in the servant’s quarters so no one has given it any attention. But it might be very helpful as she and Colleen are making a plan.
Apparently the mother described in this journal died before the labor even began. The journaling midwife wasn’t called until the mother was already mostly wrapped in linen grave cloth. The husband was grieving at her side, and the only urgency seemed to be to rescue the infant who was alive, but not yet delivered. So of course, the midwife immediately used her blade and rescued the infant.
As I return to the stable at the monastery I can attest to the fact that it is much easier to deliver a mother and child from a block of marble, than into life itself.
(Continues Tuesday, September 20, 2022)